PA High Court Race Hits Record $5 M

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For the first time ever, candidates competing for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court have collectively raised more than $5 million in campaign funds.

By mid-September, eight candidates had together raised a total of just over $5 million, smashing a 12-year-old fundraising record, reports the Justice at Stake Campaign blog. The previous record of a little more than $4 million was set in 1995.

The state is just one example of a troubling trend, says the nonpartisan court reform campaign. Of 22 states that elect the judges who sit on the bench of their highest courts, 14 have set fundraising records during the last three years. And fundraising could easily hit even more stratospheric levels next year, as candidates battle for high-court seats in 21 states in an era of hard-fought, acrimonious judicial elections, Justice at Stake reports in another post.

“Pennsylvania is no stranger to the new politics of judicial elections. But forcing judges to raise big money from parties who may appear before them will undermine public trust in fair courts,” says Bert Brandenburg, the Washington, D.C.-based group’s executive director. “Judges will face escalating pressure to be accountable to special interests instead of the law and the Constitution.”

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